Rising to the top ...Celtic cream of the crop

THE Bhoys done good - now the kids are ready to have some fun.

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Celtic's rapid charge over the winning line in the title race will open the door for a clutch of the highly-rated youngsters being developed at the academy.

Neil Lennon keeps a very close eye on what he describes as the talent "bubbling underneath", and has already this season promoted Darnell Fisher (below) and, most recently, 17-year-old Liam Henderson.

They are the cream of the crop. But there are several other kids for whom Lennon has high hopes, and whose progress he wants to test in the first team.

A number of the youngsters were given a chance to shine in the Antalya Cup matches played in Turkey during the mid-season break.

Now, with the title in the bag, the fans - and the manager - will be given the chance to check them out on more familiar ground.

The Hoops boss said: "We have already seen Liam make his debut, which has pleased everyone. We drip-fed him into the squad because we didn't want to throw him in too early.

"But, I think we got the timing right on that one. We may do the same with a few others now, but I don't want to overdo it.

"There are on or two who have been bubbling under quite nicely, though."

The quality of player now being produced by the academy is what Lennon wants to see, recognising that, even with a very healthy bank balance, Celtic can't rely solely on buying in first-team material.

"Everyone at academy level works hard," said the manager.

"And, when they see one of their players coming through, everyone gets a sense of achievement and pride.

"But what we want is not these players coming up for one or two games, we want them to be part of the first-team set-up for the next three, four or five years.

"Certainly, Darnell and Liam have done their chances of that no harm."

Considering Fisher was playing local park football in the Reading area a few years ago, the fact he has made enough appearances to qualify for a league winners' medal speaks volumes.

Now Henderson is tipped to follow his lead, and Lennon believes he has much more to give.

He said: "We have been delighted by the way Liam has handled coming into the first team."


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